Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and then released into the bloodstream. Darkness prompts the pineal gland to start producing melatonin while light causes that production to stop. As a result, melatonin helps regulate circadian rhythm and synchronize our sleep-wake cycle with night and day. In doing so, it facilitates a transition to sleep and promotes consistent, quality rest.
Melatonin created within the body is known as endogenous melatonin, but the hormone can also be produced externally. Exogenous melatonin is normally made synthetically in a laboratory and, as a dietary supplement, it is most often sold as a pill, capsule, chewable, or liquid.
Melatonin supplements are taken to adjust the body’s internal clock. Melatonin is most commonly used for insomnia and improving sleep in different conditions. For example, it is used for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles in people whose daily work schedule changes (shift-work disorder), and for helping people establish a day and night cycle.
How does melatonin work?
Melatonin’s main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Some people who have trouble sleeping have low levels of melatonin. It is thought that adding melatonin from supplements might help them sleep.
Melatonin acts on regions of the brain that are active when a person is not engaged in a specific mental or physical task. The collective term for these regions is the default mode network (DMN). Melatonin promotes sleep through its effects on the DMN.
How long does it take for melatonin to work?
Generally, it takes about 30 min to 1 hour for the effects of melatonin to kick in and for the medication to begin to work because your body absorbs melatonin rapidly. Most melatonin supplements are released into the bloodstream immediately after taking them. However, some formulations are designed for extended-release. This means small amounts of melatonin enter the bloodstream over time. Time-released melatonin is intended to mimic the body’s natural production of melatonin, which occurs throughout the night.
It is recommended that you take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. However, the best time to take melatonin is different for each person. Everyone absorbs medication at different rates. To start, take melatonin 30 minutes before bed. You can adjust the timing depending on how long it takes for you to fall asleep.
Can I take 20 mg of melatonin at night?
According to the official answer provided by drugs.com, melatonin is likely safe when taken at recommended doses, typically 1-20mg, for up to three months. Melatonin is not regulated by the FDA in the US and is often sold as a dietary supplement and has not been subjected to the same safety or efficacy requirements as a medicine.
There are no regulated manufacturing standards for dietary supplements and some have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. It is recommended you purchase Melatonin from a reliable source to minimize your risk.
Some animal studies have linked melatonin to depression, reproductive and immunological issues but there have been no long-term safety studies in humans to replicate this. There is little or no evidence of any major toxicities with melatonin, even at high doses. Common side effects include drowsiness, headache, depression, and nausea.
What Are the Side Effects of Melatonin?
Melatonin is not a normal medication, but you can experience side effects if you’re sensitive to the supplement.
The upside is that side effects of melatonin are usually mild and subside as your body adjusts.
Side effects vary, but include:
Melatonin has also been known to exacerbate depressive symptoms, and should be used with caution in those suffering from depression.
Experiencing side effects doesn’t always mean that you should stop taking melatonin. The decision to stop will depend on the severity of your side effects, and whether they improve or continue.
Of course, it’s all about tolerance, too. If you take melatonin and repeatedly experience cramps or diarrhea the next day, you might be sensitive and need to consider other options for better sleep, perhaps chamomile tea or lavender oil.
To reduce the likelihood of side effects, always start with a low dose of melatonin. Only increase your dose as needed.
Many brands of synthetic melatonin contain 5 to 10 milligrams (mg) per serving, which is more than what people often need to regulate their sleep cycle.
Some adults only need a little melatonin, while others need more. Children can typically get by with a lesser amount, too.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t take 5 or 10 mg every night, but you should discuss this with your doctor first to ensure your body can handle a larger dosage.
Also, consult with your doctor if you take any prescription medication. This includes drugs for depression and diabetes, as well as anticoagulation medication, immunosuppressants, and corticosteroids.
Melatonin can also cause an inflammatory response in the body, so the supplement isn’t an ideal choice for people who have certain autoimmune diseases.